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Updated 10/2014

Updated 10/2014

Intellectual property rights


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Protect your business ideas!

If you have a great, innovative idea, which you hope will transform your business, you should consider protecting it as your intellectual property (IP) before announcing it to the world! Great ideas are only of value if you can legally claim them as your own.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property consists of products, work or processes that you have created and which give you a competitive advantage.

There are 3 subcategories:

  • Industrial property: inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, new varieties of plants and geographic indications of origin
  • Artistic work protected by copyright: original literary and artistic works, music, television broadcasting, software, databases, architectural designs, advertising creations and multimedia
  • Commercial strategies: trade secrets, know-how, confidentiality agreements, or rapid production.

How can I protect my IP?

You can protect your intellectual property by means of the intellectual property rights (IPR) laid down by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). The form of protection depends on the type of IP:

  • patents - allow you to stop third parties from making, using or selling your invention for a certain period depending on the type of invention
  • trademarks - protect the name of your product by preventing other business from selling a product under the same name
  • copyright - informs others that you (as the author) intend to control the production, distribution, display or performance of your work. Copyright is granted automatically, with no need for formal registration. You can start using the copyright symbol immediately.

You can also refer to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) for the registration of Community trademarks and designs, and the European Patent Office (EPO).

IPRs are still chiefly protected by national rather than EU laws. Defending them in each individual EU country can be complicated and costly. You can save time and money by protecting your intellectual property at EU level. This will make sure that your innovations and creations are protected across the EU, and that you are rewarded for them.

 

Applying for and registering a Community trademark costs €1 050. Filing your application via the internet costs even less:  €900.

You can apply for a national patent at a patent office in an EU country or for a European patent through the European Patent Office. However, a European patent needs to be validated by the national patent office in each country where protection is required. Depending on the country's law, you may have to provide translations or pay fees by a certain date.

Counterfeiting (unauthorised imitation of a branded good) and piracy (unauthorised copying of an item covered by an intellectual property right) have reached alarming proportions - with significant implications for innovation, growth, employment and consumer health and safety.

Depending on the law in the EU country in question and the source of counterfeit goods, the authorities to turn to are: customs, market surveillance (trading standards), the police or the patent and trade mark offices.

Protection against counterfeiting

Customs administrations are the front line of defence for your intellectual property rights at EU borders. You can ask them to detain goods suspected of infringing IPR by lodging an application for action with the competent national customs authorities.

While the request for assistance is national, requests deposited in one EU country may be granted the same legal status in all EU countries.

Forms and manual to request action from the customs.

Dig deeper, country by country:

Help & advice

Help & advice

European IPR helpdesk

official EU service providing support on intellectual property management and IPR protection for those involved in EU co-funded projects or transnational business deals. Free advice via a helpline (answers within 3 working days) and training courses on IP. Factsheets, e‑mail newsletter and bulletin.

China IPR SME Helpdesk

free advice, training or documentation for small companies doing business with China with questions or problems relating to IP.

Transatlantic IPR Portal

online tools to protect your intellectual property rights in many countries worldwide.

InnovAccess

centralised information about legislation and registration procedures and about support measures at national level (managed by a European network of national IP offices helplines).

IPR: catalogue of online tools for business

a further list of online resources on IPR.

MERCOSUR IPR SME HELPDESK

Free of charge, first-line support on IP and IP rights matters that aims to facilitate the expansion of European SMEs (EU SMEs and SMEs from the Associated countries) already established at, or working with entities in Mercosur and Chile and other Latin American markets.

Your Europe Advice

Your Europe Advice is a source of expert advice for any issues you encounter in another EU country that involve EU law.

Solvit

Solvit can assist you to solve a dispute with an official body of a Member state without going to court and free of charge.
Submit your online complaint or visit a Solvit centre in your country.

 

E-mail a business organisation near you

The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

Choose your country and town and enter your enquiry below.

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